Next week marks one year since the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority decided to close the police department, which patrolled some of Richmond's most dangerous communities. A year later, taxpayers are still paying for that decision.
An investigation revealed RRHA cut checks for $12,351 to a business called Signs@work. The housing authority is using the company to repurpose police equipment at the now-defunct department.
NBC12 was first to break the news RRHA's then-CEO Adrienne Goolsby had decided to close the agency police department. There were several marked and unmarked cars outside headquarters March 31, 2014, as officers left to go to a meeting where they would be told their services were no longer needed.
Over the last year, those vehicles and signs of the department have started to slowly disappear.
Even the words “RRHA Police Department” have been taken off the old headquarters. People who live around 200 Hospital Street say they've seen employees come in and out of the building over the last few months.
Signs@Work was hired by RRHA, not as a contractor, but through a simplified method that allows housing authorities to purchase services without going through a lengthy procurement process. That process is called the “small purchase procedures procurement method,” which is authorized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Here's the breakdown of how the authority is spending your money: The company is getting $6,556 to remove emergency equipment from vehicles, $4,720 to remove police decals, buff and polish the cars, and $1,075 to provide and install the basic RRHA logos.
“Me personally, my safety is OK,” Antonio Lee, who lives in Gilpin Court, said of his safety since RRHA Police closed down. “Me and my son we stay to ourselves.”
But Lee now has concerns about what we uncovered. He doesn't think this is an appropriate use of almost $12,000.
“I honestly believe they should invest more of that money into these apartments,” he added. “Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of these apartments that need more work done to them.”
An RRHA spokesperson said,"As required by HUD regulations, RRHA is underway with assessing, reassigning and or disposing of equipment, vehicles and supplies." The authority is also working with partner police departments to make sure the unloading of other equipment is done safely.
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